‘No institutional racism here’ says accused institution – case closed!

Definitely nothing to see here – so says head teacher Gill Kelly

Over in Redfield is City Academy, a secondary school for 1,100 youngsters and one of the largest employers in East Bristol. Like the ward in which it sits, Easton – where up to 40% of residents are from Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds – it’s a diverse environment, both across the student body and in its staff.

So you would think that when a black worker complained of INSTITUTIONAL RACISM, a full and proper investigation would ensue – to weed out any racists, to ensure a better environment for pupils and adults alike, and to reassure local people that such prejudice would not be tolerated in the community’s school.

Well, think again. A staff member directly affected by what they considered racism wrote to colleagues asking them to come forward if they had any similar experience at the Academy.

Within minutes an email came down from the office of Gill Kelly, the Executive Principal. The message was clear: ‘there is no institutional racism at City Academy’, END OF DISCUSSION. So concluded the fastest investigation in living memory – the (white) headteacher had spoken, and so no further action was needed.

Meanwhile, Kelly was also undertaking a major restructuring, making MANY STAFF REDUNDANT thanks to budget cuts so deep the school’s ability to teach is threatened. Some affected had served the school for twenty years, going back to when it was state funded in the days before the One World Learning Trust was given responsibility to run it in 2003.

So staff decided to have a send-off for their ‘downsized’ colleagues, with nibbles in the school canteen after students had departed for the day. ‘Not on your nelly,’ said Kelly, who cancelled the party, just in case anyone mentioned the topics of racism or speedy investigations. And then she phoned in sick. She may well have been sick, but not half as sick as the staff are of her.

The employees being made redundant were then individually ‘helped’ off the premises in an attempt to segregate them from other staff members. What a way to treat people after years of service! Needless to say, they all met down the boozer anyway for a good chinwag…

Of course, the way senior management at City treats staff is no surprise to many workers, not least to those from nearby Bannerman Road primary, which ‘federated’ with the Academy last year in what was meant to be a partnership of equals. However, once the signatures were dry, the original agreement was IGNORED, and Kelly installed herself as line manager of Bannerman Road’s Ofsted-commended headteacher Paula Shore. And guess what? Shore is, yes, black.

Just because you are an academy, and answerable to nobody but your own board of directors, does not mean you can ignore the issue of institutional racism, or concerns of BME workers in our community’s school.

So conduct a proper investigation, you bastards!


  1. Jayne

    It may also interest readers to know that despite years of continual service not one person of colour in what was the schools community team experienced any form of promotion or career enhancement.
    When the opportunity arose to promote someone the positions were given to white colleagues, yes given. Both had no knowledge of the work they were asked to manage, both were given the senior managerial roles, no job adverts posted, no recruitment process.
    The community team comprised 99% people of colour it included several university graduates and people who held managerial posts in other jobs.

    When one white manager left they were replaced by another white manager again no job advert and no recruitment process. When the staff of colour complained expressing how they felt this was discrimination they were told by the schools Governors “how can exchanging one white manager for another white manager be discrimination!”

    The City Academy Bristol a place where the Equality Act does not exist!!!

    1. J.C

      Doesn’t quite add up if you ask me. I don’t see how we can make such sweeping statements such as ‘the equality act doesn’t exist’ here when it states in the first paragraph of this article that ‘it’s a diverse environment, both in the student body and the staff’.

      Isn’t the fact that the community team were 99% people of colour in stark contradiction to the direction of this piece?

      That aside the article strikes me as embarrassingly childish and unprofessional; perhaps that’s what the Bristolian is going for here. I feel quite strongly that we should not be throwing terms such as ‘institutionalised racism’ around lightly; there are many reasons for this but perhaps the most pertinent is that is devalues and distracts from the real challenges we have as well as (and this might sound harsh but I think it’s important to remember) dilutes the progress we’ve made in the last few decades. Therefore I think at the very least, if the writer wishes to be taken seriously they should employ more professional language, ‘investigate, you bastards!’ screams out bitter teenager I’m afraid. And so does the whole party imbroglio, who wants to sit around in the kids canteen anyway? Go to the pub like adults.

      In short, I don’t think people who are serious about fighting racism should be in the business of throwing their toys out of the pram.

      We’ve had a little light shed by the above poster, and I thank them for that. But without it we don’t really have any information about the original claim which is odd. Put it in the public domain, give us the facts and the figures… what is the actual grievance? It’s very frustrating for the reader when these claims are made but there is nothing in the way of journalism and facts to back it up. For all we know, problem is the claim (of institutionalised racism) could be absolutely ridiculous, and that was why it was treated so dismissively.

      Anyway, that’s my two cents. I totally sympathise if in fact the Academy is institutionally racist. I am a person of colour myself. But you’ll have to do a much better job convincing me of this.

      1. j

        Head Teacher and a vice principal of the school will be in court in July explaining their comments to a black member of staff.

        1. thebristolblogger

          Do tell us more. Which Court? What date? We’ll get our court reporting team on it …

      2. J.C

        Interesting J, again seems like a major thing to leave out of the article. I agree that it would be useful for the Bristolian to report on that.

  2. J. Smith

    I believe that there is no smoke without fire. The writer who commented I believe is pretending to be of colour as the statement is clearly from a employee or employer. All of which defeats anything and the matter still remains that if someone is made to feel discrimated by their work place whether direct or indirect a full investigation should be conducted in the right way and not dismissed at will. This is 2013 and it should not be tolerated on any levels. Stop trying to push things in a corner, and be upfront about the real issues the school has, sort it out and move into the real world. What progress has the Academy made is the statement in which makes me feel its is someone from within making the negative statement (who ever J.C maybe) until its you or your family or friend that is effected lets not judge how people of colour has been made to feel by The Academy. Lets hear the truth.

  3. J.C

    I thought I might get a comment like that, accusing someone of ‘pretending to be a person of colour’ is always replete amongst internet exchanges. Comes with the package I suppose, though it’s a very cheap thing to say.

    The whole thing is very presumptive, I’d appreciate if you didn’t speculate about a stranger’s family and friends; again, base, cheap. Ah well. All I can say is that you’re wrong about ALL your assumptions. But I think it’s pretty cool that I’ve managed to convince you that I’m an employee or employer… perhaps I should go for a job aye?

    Look, I think it’s entirely reasonable to expect – when claims of this nature are made – some detailed information on the specific issue at hand. Maybe I’m asking too much, but it seems strange to me to make such a vehement call for an investigation but omit any indication of what specifically should be investigated. That’s all. Truth is right… and what would that truth be then, John?

  4. Tom

    If you’d like a few facts the court date is 17th – 19th July. You can get all of the detail at The Employment Tribunal, First Floor,The Crescent Centre, BS1 6EZ. 0117 929 8261

    The case, discrimination on the grounds of race The Claimant a Black Carib male v The City Academy Bristol.
    The nature of the claim allocated 3 full days by the court the maximum amount of time for a tribunial case.

    Who was it that said there is no smoke without fire! I dont know about you but I’m looking forward to it, hope to see some of you there.

  5. Tom

    A few quick facts;
    • A long serving Black assistant manager (11 years service) applied for a leadership role at The City Academy Bristol. His application form was returned, given back by hand, by a Vice Principle on the grounds that he felt he wasn’t quit ready.

    • A South Asian female project manager was told to tell her Somali co worker and project coordinator that he should no longer send emails to colleagues and other schools because his English was poor. She was told how on reading his poor English he would offend readers and cause them to switch off. The person in question is a well kept married man and a University student. (It’s important to note that this was the same White British manager who suggested as a form of treat Cheer Leading and Fashion shows for Muslim girls aged 10 and 11).

    • With no prior warning or meeting to discuss concerns a South Asian project manager (7 years service) was told by her new White British line manager that she could no longer communicate with others schools without authorisation. Communicating with schools was a daily part of her role. She was told that she should stick to what she was good at, talking with the ‘community’ (primarily South Asian and Somali people) and working with children. This message was also expressed to a Black Caribbean project manager (6 years service). Coincidently the same man who will appear in court in July 2013.
    • A Black Caribbean project manager was commended on the work he had performed. In the same breath he was told how it was unfortunate that he could not receive a promotion as it would make him the same grade as his line manager. When this same line manger left The City Academy Bristol a White British manager with no knowledge of the work performed and or the groups she would represent was given the senior role. There was no recruitment process or interview.

    • In 2007 an entire department bar 2 people were made redundant with the promise of reemployment in 6 weeks. All of those made redundant were people of colour. The 2 people still employed and given leadership over the people of colour were White British.

    • A Black Caribbean project manager felt the need to speak with a member of the schools senior leadership team. He wanted to discuss what he saw as a glass ceiling for people like himself. Talking personally he explained how despite coming to The City Academy Bristol as a project manager and holding previous managerial experience, a BA Honours Degree and a Diploma in Management he was often referred to as an LSA or School Mentor. Areas where he had no knowledge or experience, areas not suited to his work background.
    Talking openly about his own experience and the experience of other people of colour he asked about the possibility for others alongside himself holding a meeting with the senior leadership team at the school to discuss how they felt and what it was like for them working at The City Academy Bristol.
    The idea was dismissed by the senior leader on the grounds that it would be unfair on the White employees and in his view as no one had spoken direct to him everyone was happy with what they were doing.
    Less than a month later more than 10 people of colour submitted a grievance stating how they either felt The City Academy was ‘institutionally racist’ or how they wanted to support those who felt this way. The school was told how others expressed support for this concern but they were scared to come forward from fear of losing their jobs. When the suggestion was made to one of the schools Governors that he should approach those in fear for their jobs, he looked at the group making the claim and dismissed their words as hearsay.
    • A female Black Caribbean coordinator felt the need to talk in confidence with a member of the schools senior leadership team. She expressed how in her opinion there was no progress for people like herself. Rather than discuss the issue giving it the attention it deserved the senior leader felt the need to point out how well-spoken the Black Caribbean employee was and how he was impressed by the way she presented her argument. Explaining how she knew she was well spoken and a good orator she was greeted by the comment, “there’s no need to get aggressive”.

    • Two long serving project managers both of colour with more than 13 years of service between them questioned why their work was now subject to managerial guidance. Amongst the numerous reasons put forward by their new White British manager were, it is to help you, offer support, to make sure things are done properly etc. In this same conversation was in the words of one of the project managers, “the straw that broke the Camel’s back”. Both project managers were told how the additional guidance/support was given to them on the grounds that they alongside their colleagues were ‘Vulnerable’. The qualifying statement and the next words to come from the White British managers mouth, “I’ve been told this on more than one occasion…this stays between us and doesn’t go any further or outside this room”.

    There are plenty more facts so if you require more or clarification just ask, but I’m sure several points will be covered when one of the people above has the opportunity to stand up in court.

    1. J.C

      Hi Tom, good stuff and pretty much exactly what I was looking for. If you don’t work here (the Bristolian, not the Academy, though I’m sure you must have some ties to the latter) you should do. It’ll be interesting to see what goes on in court, perhaps you can give us an update.

      It might seem to some that I went in a little heavy handed, but I felt the original attempt was a bit wishy-washy. As we can now see, there’s a lot of information undisclosed which I think is wrong when people’s names are involved.

      It would also being interesting to get an overview of the staff demographic. I mean surely one way to suggest that the Academy is institutionally racist would be to show that there is little or no BME representation in senior positions.

      Either way, though there’s always two sides to these things, your post certainly bolsters the argument.

      1. Jayne

        I can answer that question, focusing on the Academy not Bannerman Rd only one person of colour has held a paid post at the school. She left shortly after Gill Kelly started why I cant say.

      2. J.C

        So what’s this list of project managers and co-ordinators (sorry if it’s a stupid question I’m a bit confused now)?

      3. Jayne

        Sorry I wasn’t clear. I meant there has been one person senior leader of colour at The City Academy she left shortly after the start of Gill Kelly.

        The project managers and coordinators were not senior posts.

      4. J.C

        Well, in that case it would be ideal to speak to that person. Though I imagine it could be difficult; these things are always like walking on egg shells the higher up you go the less chance you’ve got of any candid discourse and the more chance you’ve got of filibustering and equivocation.

        So it’s fair to say a decent number of BME staff are employed and the grievance is the ‘glass ceiling’ essentially?

        Unfortunately that’s a problem across the country. Indeed, the same thing is attested regarding the NHS. Same thing in government. Same thing across the public and private sector, in fact. I work in the private sector, have done for my whole working life which is coming up for a decade, never received any ‘career enhancements’ or promotions myself, but then neither have many of my white colleagues, tough world out there see. (for the record I’ve never worked for the Academy, and I don’t know anyone who works there, don’t have the qualifications or the experience, I’m a wage slave to the core.)

        Sol Campbell was on BBC1 outlining this last night.

        It’s a difficult one, because doubtless sometimes people cry racism when it genuinely was the case that they were unsucessful in the promotion (or whatever it might be) they went for, for completely acceptable reasons. And in turn, due to perceived constraints BME staff may be employed or promoted based on racial pressure rather than professional merit. I know, for some, those kind of statements are like putting the cat amongst the pigeons (I can hear the cries of ‘coconut’ now <– this is said in jest 'lol' 'smiley face' 'kill all humans') but it seems an almost unavoidable corollary of the challenge we have.

        Also, as far as I'm aware there's no laws compelling employers to advertise all roles internally; so perhaps that's one for the government.

        All this being said, if people feel discriminated against, it's commendable to stand up and be counted. But, I see it far too often that people are too frivolous with the terms racism, sexism, homophobia etc, and that to me can be just as deplorable. Anyone who thinks otherwise should think about what it would be like to be publicly derided as a racist when in fact you are not.

    1. J.

      I stand up for what I say, sometimes all the facts are not revealed by the media for several reason. I make no apologies for what I said as the attack on people of colour by someone who says they are of colour gave way to doubt. As my Dad would say “if the cap fits, let them wear it” so wear it with pride JC. This is 2013 and if you believe anyone would use the race card willy nilly I’m stunned and shocked. Our grandparent, and parents fought hard on their voyage here, this ain’t no joke thing, its cold hard reality based on people’s feelings and no one can say this is not how they were meant to feel. I emphasise with all the people involved and I feel their fight especially if they are facing a battle from all. I stand up and I support “stamp out racism in the work place.”

      1. J.C

        Hi J, impassioned stuff, I like it. I should never get into these discussions really, I am a little f’d up, don’t really think like most folk. For example, when it comes to caps, I’d say I wear quite a few; and I wear them with a sort of nervous twitch, but confident in the knowledge that people of all colours and creeds talk shit. Weird aye?

        I know what year it is mate, but thanks for the second heads up all the same. The 20th century was hard for everyone. I mean poor white people (and middle class of course, but the poor are more useful for heartstrings) fought, suffered and died in their millions. Why did they have to die for some obscure dispute in Serbia between Russia and Austria? I know, I know, something about honouring a promise to Belgium and fear of being internationally friendless. But, still it’s sad right? It’s the hundredth anniversary of course next year, and we’ll all be gathered to commemorate to great European conflagration. And it was great, nothing else, case closed and don’t talk about it.

        Sorry, off topic. Point is, this whole world and our history as humans is full of tragedy felt on ALL sides. And more often than not this black and white thing is a distraction from a greater battle which is between rich and poor. And here we are pouring our hearts out for the middle classes.

        To echo your statement, I stand up for what I say. The article is personally implicating someone but offers little in the way of explanation, just way too vague for me and therefore deserves criticism. It was only until Jayne and Tom got involved that myself, the reader, could say that I was in any way informed. Frankly I question the point in writing about a subject which you would rather not disclose the details about.

        And I find it very hard to get upset about the party, I hate works do’s, and a works do in a kids canteen sounds like hell. It’s none news, I don’t care. Moreover cuts are made by the government, and subsequently lots of people are being laid off in the public sector and have been for years. So surely the frustrations in that regard should be aimed at the conservatives?

        We can do this all day, and perhaps we’ll all have a better idea of what is going on by the end of it.

  6. B

    I spent 12 years at the school as a teacher and the institution introduced me to many new friends from different cultures. I am a white working class person from South Bristol. The school really helped me mature as a person and I I thank it and all of the people in it for the experience.

    As for what’s gone on, I wish the people involved would have made your feelings more aware to staff before the government cut the funding of your projects and you were made redundant. I, like lots of others who worked there would have helped. It has not helped your cause to do this after you had the news of the cuts and it makes you look very bitter.

    Good luck in your plight, I hope it brings you the end that you wish for.

    1. Jayne

      B thanks for your thoughts. Those involved the people of colour know they would have had support from many staff at the school. What you may not know, allegations of discrimination at the school first went to print in November 2011. Things only came out in the light in late 2012 when in confronting a white manager at the school two black managers were called vulnerable. The issue
      went public following Senoir
      Managments attempts to brush the issue under the carpet.

      1. B

        Jayne, I hear you, but if we are to challenge racism it must be done face to face. That’s what I learned while being an advocate for those young children, if at a football match there were racist remarks I would never have waited until after and phoned the other school, I would have hit it head on.

        Some people are racist, some aren’t and some people know it and some don’t. I have found in 90% of incidents I have been involved in its ignorance of ones actions not true racism and if you challenge it at the time you not only educate, you prevent and learn to live with the beautiful diversity that this community has.

        If you keep quiet and look back on the past people are unaware and sometimes truly sorry for their action (more the former). They learn nothing from it but discontent that they were not made aware of at the time.

        I put it to you that no one could work at that school and have true hatred for colour in their hearts, but that does not mean that mistakes were not made. My final statement about the ending you wish for was really to point out that the people involved need to know how they have made you feel and that time has probably passed. Any ending now will be one of confusion and disbelief and will not bring us together in any way :( but I could be wrong.

  7. J.S.E

    is there any more information about this case, I am interested to find out what is happening, I left this school around 3 years ago, to be honest I am glad that I did . I am very shocked that things such as this still happens especially in a multicultural rich school.

  8. Bob

    Well it appears that an investigation into racism issues has been undertaken. Shame it took the aggrieved party having to take the Academy to an Employment Tribunal to get justice though. Good luck with the job hunting Gill Kelly, don’t forget to put ‘racist’ on your CV.

  9. Marion

    I felt compelled to post today as I worked at the school as a teacher for seven years, under the previous head I was treated well and had opportunity for advancement in my career. When ms kelly came into post everything changed , I did not feel respected by her despite my dedication in running a department and having significant service at the school. She was a total self publicist and only interested in furthering her own ‘career ‘ , she didn’t care about the staff from what I could see and on many occasions spoke to me as if I was ineffectual in front of students despite being a successful teacher. I could not bare to see the way esteemed colleagues seemed to disappear thus affecting perceptions of job security for all, morale was at an all time low when I left which was such a shame as the kids and staff were such nice people.

    I’m soo happy that she has now left , the school will be a much better place without her and I wish my colleagues every success in rebuilding the school .


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